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 CNS Story:

ELECTION-ROME Nov-3-2004 (510 words) xxxi

U.S. Catholics in Rome go to work without knowing election results

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- After gathering for breakfast in a Rome hotel Nov. 3, U.S. Catholics living and working in Rome went to their offices without having heard a concession speech or a victory address from candidates in the U.S. presidential race.

"It seems the Democrats are going to ask for a recount in Ohio, which they are entitled to do," said the breakfast host, Jim Nicholson, the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican and former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Nicholson, 66, told his 150 U.S. and Italian guests he did not have gray hair until four years ago when, as RNC chairman, he watched the battle over the Florida balloting rage for more than a month.

"We're not here to talk about a winner at this point, but about the process," he said at 9 a.m. Rome time, 3 a.m. Eastern time, after Sen. John Edwards, the Democratic vice presidential hopeful, basically announced Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts was not going to concede the election immediately.

Nicholson said the large voter turnout in the United States and the lack of violence showed "respect for democracy and for our Constitution."

He also said the United States is "grateful for the wonderful relationship we have with the Holy See and with the Holy Father and for all these men here in black shirts and white collars" -- mainly U.S. priests working at the Vatican or teaching or studying at Rome universities.

Nicholson told Catholic News Service that during the campaign the Vatican did not ask the embassy for any information about the race or the candidates.

"I'm sure they relied on the nuncio," Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, in Washington, he said.

In social situations, however, he said, some Vatican officials did ask his opinion of the way the race was going.

Nicholson said it was too early to have data on how Catholics voted in the election, "but my intuition says faith was very relevant" in the voting "because of all the values that were discussed."

Late in the afternoon, when the Vatican newspaper rolled off the presses, all its front-page headline could proclaim about the race was "Result still uncertain."

The newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, added that while it was impossible to say either candidate had the 270 electoral votes needed to win the popular vote seemed to give Bush a second term.

While the newspaper mentioned in passing that the Republicans had strengthened their majorities in the Senate and the House of Representatives, it did not mention state ballot initiatives to ban gay marriages or the California referendum on funding embryonic stem-cell research.

In its main news broadcast Nov. 3, Vatican Radio also informed listeners that the results were not final, but that Bush seemed set to win.

"According to the first analyses," the radio said, "the most important themes for the voters were moral values, Iraq, terrorism and the economy."

More Americans voted than in 2000, it said, "but to judge from the national results, Bush's supporters mobilized more people than Kerry's did."


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